From fires to floods: ‘A wall of water burst into the house, started floating the furniture’

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CARLTON, Wash. — Nearly a dozen homes that escaped wildfires were inundated with mud and water when heavy rains fell on the scorched earth in Okanogan County in north-central Washington Thursday night.

Highways were buried under massive amounts of dirt and debris.

Nobody was hurt when the rain and mud came rushing down Thursday night. But directly in the path of the mudslide were several homes. It was a scene that happened across the Methow Valley.

Janie Lewis’ house was flooded. She said Friday that she and her family were home when a wall of mud and debris came crashing into their house.

“We just could not believe what was happening. I mean, it was so fast, you`re in 2 feet of water in less than 30 seconds,” Lewis said.

The rain just had nowhere else to go, because of the scorched earth left from the recent Carlton Complex Fire. And it flowed directly into Lewis` living room.

“All of the sudden he runs in and says, ‘Did you hear that?’ And I said no, and then a wall of water burst into the house and started floating the furniture, filling up the kitchen,” Lewis said.

Neighbor Tarrie Darwood couldn’t believe it either.

“This is ridiculous. I didn’t even know there was a creek that ran down this way. Cause there was a house right there and it`s obviously no longer there,” Darwood said.

Her and her family escaped the mudslide — but her home is cut off, thanks to the pile of mud blocking State Route 153.

"It makes your stomach turn because the fires were just right up here on the hillside and they were so close to our house," Darwood said. "And then to have it like this, it`s like on both sides of our house."

Friends and family pulled up their sleeves and started digging the mud out of Lewis' house.

And Lewis said she feels blessed that her family escaped without getting hurt.

"We were caught in it ... but we got out," she said.

"Things are washed away so I don`t know what we`re going to do. We`re going to have to figure it out, you know?"

The Washington State Department of Transportation has been working over time to get the mud cleared off the state highways as fast as they can.

Three main roads were closed, blocked or damaged, said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers.

State Route 20 was closed overnight, but was reopened at 4:30 p.m. Friday.  SR153 sustained significant damage and SR 97 was blocked at Chiliwist,  Rogers said Friday morning.

While it was not raining Friday morning many additional side and smaller roads also remain in bad shape.

Rogers said emergency crews still don't know the full extent of the damage.  The first priority is to get the main roads reopened.

The National Park Service said heavy rains and strong winds caused flash flooding in the Carlton Complex fire area and throughout the incident command post and fire camp.

"All personnel are accounted for and have been provided options for dry places to sleep," the incident command said.

About 500 people are still assigned to the fires, of which just over 100 are staying at the Eight-Mile spike camp, which wasn't impacted by flooding.

People in the area were being advised to move away from recently burned wildfire areas, as heavy rains can trigger slides and debris flows.




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